1. News

Restaurateur Frank Chivas' company sued over overtime wages

Frank Chivas’ Marina Cantina is accused of not paying overtime.
Frank Chivas’ Marina Cantina is accused of not paying overtime.
Published Jan. 7, 2016

CLEARWATER — Three construction workers are suing Tampa Bay restaurateur Frank Chivas' newest business Marina Cantina and construction company Primary Structures, alleging the two companies concocted a payroll scheme to avoid paying laborers overtime.

In the lawsuit, filed in federal court under the Fair Labor Standards Act last month, lead plaintiff Ed Samonte alleges workers often clocked more than 40 hours a week building the $2.5 million restaurant at the Clearwater Beach Marina but were not paid time and a half as the law requires.

Laborers, according to the lawsuit, were commonly paid for 36 hours of work with a Primary Structures check and any additional hours per week from a Marina Cantina account, which did not withhold taxes and paid only straight time.

"This is not inadvertently failing to pay your employees, this is being done by design," said attorney John Gadd, who is representing Samonte and two other workers who joined the lawsuit, Mike Cain and Emanuel Flores. "These are checks being issued out of two separate operating accounts."

In a statement, attorney Brian Aungst Jr., who is representing both companies, called the issue "a clerical payroll error."

Aungst said upon learning of the error from the lawsuit, Chivas, who owns a number of local restaurants, including Island Way Grill and Salt Rock Grill, and was named the 2015 Mr. Clearwater, made arrangements to pay all affected employees.

To date, 12 employees have been contacted and paid double what they were owed in back wages, as required by labor laws, Aungst said.

And days after the filing, Aungst attempted to settle out of court with Gadd and his clients for back wages and full damages.

"We value and respect all of our employees and routinely provide our employees with assistance and support both in and out of the work place," Aungst said in the statement. "We are proud of our employees and our reputation of philanthropy and civic engagement. We are disappointed a lawsuit was filed in this matter as it would have easily been resolved outside of litigation."

However, Gadd said he believes a larger, undetermined number of workers has been denied due overtime, and he filed a motion to certify the lawsuit as a collective action, allowing other affected employees to join the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are seeking back pay, damages, attorney's fees and costs.

"The lawsuit is not just for the three people, it's on behalf of an entire class of individuals," Gadd said. "There's a host of similarly situated people out there who have not been paid anything and who have not had an opportunity to participate in the case."

Contact Tracey McManus at or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.


  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis raises his hands after being asked about his relationship with two Ukrainian businessmen during an announcement at a Palm Harbor Walmart Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. DeSantis refused to answer questions about the two men. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    During a news conference in Naples, DeSantis launched into a long-winded discussion of American history, which he said young people need to know better.
  2. The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony June 18 for For Each 1 Reach 1. Cutting the ribbon is Lynette Mackey. For more information, call (352) 556-2768. This was taken in 2013 at her original location. [SUBMITTED PHOTO  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Rezoning also was approved for the county’s first Nissan dealership.
  3. Jarrod Haneline, shown when he was named principal of Jackson Elementary School in 2018, has left that position. [MARLENE SOKOL  |  Times staff]
    Jarrod Haneline left the position in recent weeks.
  4. 4 hours ago• Gradebook
    Alan Black, outgoing principal of Burney Elementary School, in an image on the school website. [HSPS  |  Handout]
    School leaders will trade jobs in the new year.
  5. No sign of graves was found during a survey using ground-penetrating radar at the Tax Collector's office on E Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa. The survey was conducted based on a tip by a cemetery researcher. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    A tip from the man who pointed to the cemetery beneath King High School didn’t pan out this time.
  6. Tampa police have not identified the man caught on surveillance video peeping through the windows of Summer Sullivan and Anna Klettke's Ybor home. [Summer Sullivan]
    Denzel Crumbley was spotted walking into a dark alleyway near Summer Sullivan’s property, hiding behind a tree while holding onto a chain-link fence.
  7. Commissioner Pat Kemp so far is unopposed for re-election to her countywide seat in 2020. Commissioner Sandra Murman, term-limited in her district seat, is considering running against her. [Courtesy of Pat Kemp]
    The move appears to be in part a reaction to what some view as anti-growth leanings by the new Democratic majority on the Hillsborough County Commission.
  8. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman center, held a news conference at the Manhattan Casino on Tuesday where he announced a new vision for the 22nd Street S corridor called Deuces Rising. The plan includes building a new Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum at Commerce Park. CIty Council member Darden Rice, is to the mayor's left and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin is on the right. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The proposal to build warehouses on Commerce Park along 22nd Avenue S fell apart. Now the city wants to move the African American museum there.
  9. Robert Matthews Beall III, who goes by Matt Beall, is Beall's, Inc.'s new CEO. His great grandfather founded the company in 1915. [Beall's]
    Beall takes over leadership from the chain’s first non-family CEO.
  10. Tampa police Chief Brian Dugan speaks at a news conference Tuesday about a revamped mental health crisis training program for officers and 911 dispatchers. “There is, in my opinion, a crisis going in our society and my concern is not enough people are concerned about it," Dugan said. [TONY MARRERO  |  Tony Marrero]
    All officers will receive 40 hours of training that includes sessions with experts and family members who can provide a personal perspective.